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Court: Lawsuit alleging coerced confessions can go to trial
Law News | 2018/02/04 23:43
A lawsuit that accuses Evansville police officers of violating three teenagers' constitutional rights by coercing confessions in the killing of a homeless man can proceed to trial, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed there's enough evidence that officers deliberately coerced confessions from siblings William and Deadra Hurt in the death of 54-year-old Marcus Golike to warrant a civil trial.

"False confessions are a real problem ...," the judges wrote in their opinion, which describes the issue of whether police tactics are enough to make confessions involuntary "the ultimate legal question," The Evansville Courier & Press reported .

The suit filed in 2014 on behalf of William, Deadra and Andrea Hurt and their mother, Debbie Hurt, accuses detectives of threatening the teenagers, feeding them facts to coerce confessions and then ignoring evidence disproving those statements, and even manufacturing some evidence.

William Hurt was 18, Deadra Hurt 19 and Andrea Hurt 16 at the time of their arrests in the June 2012 killing of Golike, who was beaten, strangled and dumped in the Ohio River. Another teenager who was also arrested is not a party to the suit.

All charges in the case were ultimately dismissed against everyone but William Hurt, who refused a plea deal. A jury acquitted him of murder in February 2013.

Police began focusing on the teenagers after learning that Golike had visited the Hurt family before his death.

The suit's defendants include the city of Evansville, its police department, four city police detectives and their three supervisors at the time, one of whom is now deceased. The suit also names two Kentucky State Police detectives who were involved because Golike's body was found in their jurisdiction.

"At this juncture, the court has to take the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and then there is an issue for a jury or a judge to decide," said Keith Vonderahe, who's one of several attorneys representing the Evansville officers.


UN court lays down Costa Rica, Nicaragua maritime borders
Law Firm News | 2018/02/03 22:33
The International Court of Justice laid down definitive maritime boundaries Friday between Costa Rica and Nicaragua in the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean and a small land boundary in a remote, disputed wetland.

As part of the complex ruling, the United Nations' highest judicial organ ruled that a Nicaraguan military base on part of the disputed coastline close to the mouth of the San Juan River is on Costa Rican territory and must be removed.

Ruling in two cases filed by Costa Rica, the 16-judge U.N. panel took into account the two countries' coastlines and some islands in drawing what it called "equitable" maritime borders that carved up the continental shelf underneath the Caribbean and Pacific.

Such rulings can affect issues including fishing rights and exploration for resources like oil.

Earlier, the court ordered Nicaragua to compensate Costa Rica for damage Nicaragua caused with unlawful construction work near the mouth of the San Juan River, the court's first foray into assessing costs for environmental damage.

The order by the United Nations' principal judicial organ followed a December 2015 ruling that Nicaragua violated Costa Rica's sovereignty by establishing a military camp and digging channels near the river, part of a long-running border dispute in the remote region on the shores of the Caribbean Sea.

In total, Nicaragua was ordered to pay just over $378,890 for environmental damage and other costs incurred by Costa Rica— a small fraction of the $6.7 million sought by San Jose.



Judge admonishes victims' dad who charged at Nassar in court
Law News | 2018/02/01 22:33
A distraught father seething over sexual abuse suffered by three daughters tried to attack former sports doctor Larry Nassar in a Michigan courtroom Friday after a judge rejected his request to confront the "demon" in a locked room, a stunning rush that reflected the anguish felt by parents who trusted him with their children.

Randall Margraves was blocked by an attorney, tackled by sheriff's deputies and hauled out of court. He later apologized, saying he had lost control. Eaton County Judge Janice Cunningham said there was "no way" she would fine him or send him to jail under her contempt-of-court powers.

"I don't know what it would be like to stand there as a father and know that three of your girls were injured physically and emotionally by somebody sitting in a courtroom. I can't imagine that," the judge said.

Nonetheless, she added, it is "not acceptable that we combat assault with assault."

The incident occurred during the third and final sentencing hearing for Nassar, who has admitted to sexually assaulting girls under the guise of medical treatment. This case focuses on his work at Twistars, an elite gymnastics club southwest of Lansing.

Nassar, 54, already will spend the rest of his life in prison. He was sentenced last week to 40 to 175 years in prison for assaults at Michigan State University and his home and was ordered in December to spend 60 years in a federal prison for child pornography crimes.

Nassar pleaded guilty to molesting nine victims in Eaton and Ingham counties, but the courts have been open to anyone who says she was assaulted during his decades of work at Michigan State, Twistars and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. More than 200 accusers so far have spoken or submitted statements in the two counties, and at least 80 percent have agreed to be publicly identified.

Margraves' dramatic move occurred after he listened to two of his daughters speak in court for 10 minutes. Lauren Margraves, a college student, said her parents were "filled with regret" because they took three daughters to see Nassar for sports injuries.

"I see the look in their faces and I know they want to be able to do something but they can't," she told Nassar. "The guilt they have will never go away. All this is because of you."

Her father then stepped up and asked the judge if she would grant him "five minutes in a locked room with this demon." Cunningham declined and also turned down his request for "one minute." That is when Randall Margraves rushed toward Nassar.

There were gasps and tears in the courtroom. Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis turned to the gallery and told families to "use your words," not violence.


Suspect in U Penn student's murder due in California court
Legal Interview | 2018/02/01 22:33
A Southern California man charged in the killing of a University of Pennsylvania student is due in court Friday.

Authorities say Samuel Woodward, 20, of Newport Beach killed 19-year-old sophomore Blaze Bernstein and buried his body in a shallow grave at a neighborhood park not far from the Bernstein family's home in Lake Forest.

Bernstein, who grew up in Orange County and was visiting his family on winter break, was missing for a week after going out with Woodward the night of Jan. 2, according to authorities. Authorities searched for him with help from drone pilots and found his body at the park after rain partially exposed it.

Woodward is charged with murder and an enhancement for use of a knife. He is being held without bail. Bernstein was gay and Jewish and authorities are investigating the possibility of a hate crime.

Authorities say the two men both attended the Orange County School of the Arts but they did not know if they were friends at the time.

According to a court filing obtained by the Orange County Register, Woodward told investigators that he became angry after Bernstein kissed him the night they went to the park.

At college, Bernstein was studying psychology and was recently chosen to edit a campus culinary magazine. Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil for Bernstein and his funeral.

If convicted of the charge and enhancement, Woodward could face as much as 26 years to life in prison.


Officials ask court to send Kennedy cousin back to prison
Legal Business | 2018/01/31 10:36
Connecticut officials are asking the state's highest court to revoke Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel's bail and send him back to prison, reminding justices it has been more than a year since they reinstated his murder conviction.

The chief state's attorney's office filed the request Monday with the state Supreme Court.

Skakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy and his widow, Ethel Kennedy, was convicted of murder in 2002 in the bludgeoning death of Martha Moxley in their wealthy Greenwich neighborhood in 1975, when they were both teenagers.

He was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. But another judge granted him a new trial in 2013, citing mistakes by his lawyer. Skakel was then freed after being allowed to post $1.2 million bail while he awaited the new trial.

Prosecutors appealed the lower court ruling to the state Supreme Court, which reinstated the conviction in December 2016 in a 4-3 ruling. Skakel's lawyers asked the high court to reconsider the decision — a request that remains pending. Skakel has been allowed to remain free on bail pending that ruling.

In Monday's petition to the Supreme Court, prosecutor James Killen wrote the court's usual practice is to rule on a request to reconsider a decision within weeks, and it's not clear why it is taking so long.



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